Western Sahara General Information

Western Sahara General Information

Background: In 1976, According to ehangzhou, Morocco effectively annexed two northern thirds of Western Sahara (formerly called the Spanish Sahara), and in 1979, after the withdrawal of Mauritanian troops, annexed the remaining third. The guerrilla war with the Polisario Front, which fought against the authorities of Rabat, ended in 1991 with the signing of an armistice agreement; the referendum to finally determine the status of Western Sahara is continually delayed; its implementation is hardly possible before 2002.


Location: North Africa, Atlantic coast, between Mauritania and Morocco.
Geographical coordinates: 24° 30′ N. latitude, 13° 00′ W
Reference map: Africa.
Area: total: 266,000 square kilometers; land surface area: 266,000 km2; water surface area: 0 km2
Comparative area: Approximately equal to the area of ​​the state of Colorado.
Land borders: total length: 2,046 km; with neighboring states: with Algeria 42 km, with Mauritania 1,561 km, with Morocco 443 km.
Coastline: 1,110 km.
Maritime claims: dependent on the resolution of the issue of sovereignty.
Climate: desert, dry and hot; rains are rare; currents of cold sea air create fog and abundant dew.
Terrain: mostly desert; smooth; there are extensive rocky areas, turning into low mountains in the south and southeast of the country.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Sebyet Tah -55 m; highest point: unnamed hill 463 m.
Natural resources: phosphates, iron ore.
Land use: arable land: 0%; cultivated land: 0%; pastures: 19%; forests and plantations: 0%; others: 81%.
Irrigated land: no data.
Natural Hazards: hot, dry, dusty and/or sandy sirocco wind, sometimes blowing in winter and spring; a haze created by the ‘harmattan’ wind that hangs 60% of the year and often greatly reduces visibility.
Actual environmental problems: scarce supplies of drinking water and lack of arable land.
International agreements on environmental protection: participant: no; signed but not ratified: no.
Note to the section “Geography”:


Population: 250,559 (July 2001 est.).
Age structure: up to 14 years: no data; from 15 to 64 years: no data; over 65 years: no data.
Population growth:
Birth rate:
Sex ratio:
Child mortality:
Life expectancy:
Total fertility rate:
Proportion of adult population infected with HIV: Not available.
Number of people infected with HIV: no data.
Mortality due to AIDS: no data available.
Nationality: noun: Western Saharan; adjective: Saharan.
Ethnic groups: Arabs, Berbers.
Believers: Muslims.
Language(s): Hassanian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic.
Literacy: definition: no data; for the general population: no data available; men: no data; women: no data. State Name:


Common long form: absent;
Common short form: Western Sahara; former: Spanish Sahara.
State structure: the legal status of the territory remains uncertain; the territory is contested by Morocco and the Polis-Rio Front (People’s Front for the Liberation of Segui-et-el-Hamra and Rio de Oro), which in February 1976 officially announced the creation of the “Saharan Arab Democratic Republic” (SADR); in April 1976, Western Sahara was divided between Mauritania and Morocco, Morocco got two northern thirds of the territory; in August 1979, under pressure from the POLISARIO Front partisans, Mauritania renounced claims to its part of the territory; soon after, Morocco unilaterally annexed and took control of the sector; in 1984 the government-in-exile of the Polisario Front became a member of the OAU; partisan activity continued sporadically until September 6, 1991,
Capital: no.
Administrative division: none (the territory is de facto under the control of Morocco).


Economy Overview: Western Sahara, a resource-poor, rainfall-poor area, relies on nomadic livestock farming, fishing, and phosphate mining as its main sources of income. The main food products for the urban population have to be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. The incomes of the population and the standard of living in Western Sahara are much lower than in Morocco.
GDP: at purchasing power parity – no data.
Real GDP growth rate: no data available.
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity – no data available.
The composition of GDP by sectors of the economy: agriculture: no data; industry: no data; services: 40-45% (1996 est.).
Proportion of the population below the poverty line: no data available.
Percentage distribution of household income or consumption: for the poorest 10% of households: n/a; by top 10% of households: no data.
Inflation rate at consumer prices: no data.
Labor force: 12,000 people
Employment structure: livestock and subsistence agriculture 50%.
Unemployment rate: no data.
Budget: income: no data; costs: no data.
Spheres of economy: mining of phosphates, handicraft production.
Growth in industrial production: no data.
Electricity generation: 90 million kWh (1999).
Sources of electricity generation: fossil fuels: 100%; hydropower: 0%; nuclear fuel: 0%; others: 0% (1999).
Electricity consumption: 83.7 million kWh (1999)
Electricity export: 0 kWh (1999).
Electricity import: 0 kWh (1999).
Agricultural products: fruits and vegetables (grown in a few oases); camels, sheep, goats (bred by the nomadic population).
Export: no data.
Export articles: phosphates 62%.
Export partners: Morocco controls Western Sahara, so trading partners are included in the general Moroccan list.
Import: no data.
Import articles: fuel for fishing vessels; Food.
Import partners: Morocco controls Western Sahara, so trading partners are included in the general Moroccan list.
External debt: no data. Recipient of economic assistance: no data.
Economic aid donor:
Currency: Moroccan dirham.
Currency code: MAD.
Exchange rate: MAD/USD – 10.590 (January 2001), 10.626 (2000), 9.804 (1999), 9.604 (1998), 9.527 (1997), 8.716 (1996).
Fiscal year: calendar year.


Telecommunications Telephone lines: about 2,000 (1999 est.).
Mobile cell phones: 0 (1999).
Telephone system: sparse system with limited capacity; internal: no data; international: linked to the Moroccan telephone system by microwave radio relay, tropospheric scatter and satellite; satellite earth stations – 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) connected to Rabat (Morocco).
Broadcast stations: AM – 2, FM – 0, shortwave – 0 (1998).
Radio receivers: 56,000 (1997).
Television broadcast stations: no data.
Televisions: 6,000 (1997).
Internet country code: eh
Internet Service Providers: 1 (2000).
Number of users: no data.


Transport Railways: 0 km.
Roads: total length: 6,200 km; coated: 1,350 km; unpaved: 4,850 km (1991 est.).
Ports and harbours: Ad Dakhla, Cape Bojador, Laayun (El Aaiun).
Airports: 11 (2000 est.).
Airports with paved runways: total: 3; 2438 to 3047 m: 3 (2000 est.).
Airports with unpaved runways: total: 8; from 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1; from 914 to 1523 m:4; less than 914 m: 3 (2000 est.). Helipads: 1 (2000 est.).

International Issues

International issues International disputes: Western Sahara is claimed and ruled by Morocco, but the question of the sovereignty of the territory has not been resolved, and the UN is trying to hold a referendum to resolve it; a ceasefire agreement negotiated with the participation of the United Nations came into force in September 1991.

Western Sahara General Information